Do you have a Tranquil Mind?
Which person are you:
The person in the grocery line excited to finally find those uncommon lime sized tomatoes to make that special Italian salad.
The person waiting in line behind number 1 huffing long breaths and constantly checking the time. “Why the hell are they ringing it up so slow? Really, coupons? They don’t make that much of a difference. Oh fantastic, now you broke the machine with all your dumbass coupons.“
Here’s another scenario:
The person who gets a call in the evening with news that they have been stolen from. It’s too late at night to do anything so it will be better addressed in the morning. They watch some television to get their mind off it and get a good night’s rest.
The person who gets the same call and immediately goes into revenge mode. It is impossible to let it go and now the whole night is ruined. They toss and turn all night in bed planning out what they will say and how to get even. In the morning they come to with an hour of sleep in full rage mode ready to settle to score.
Well, most of us are number 1 part of the time and number 2 part of the time. I think the goal is to be that number 1 person as much as possible. It’s easy to lose control and blow the cap off the top of our heads. Being predominantly number 2 is a miserable existence. A tranquil mind means having less anxiety and worry. Isn’t it quite the pleasure to be in a good mood? The more peace in our minds, the easier it is to be our better self and have that good feeling.
When I was a teenager I sold a guitar to my neighbor. He gave me half of the money and then promised to give me the other half when his paycheck came. Weeks went by and I never heard from him. I kept calling and got no answer. It got to the point where I felt so cheated that I plotted to sneak over to his house in the middle of the night and steal a tire off his car as ransom for my guitar. Well, thankfully I decided jail time wasn’t worth the couple hundred bucks. I remember there came a day, months later, that I finally accepted the money wasn’t coming back and I felt this huge wave of relief come over me. Peace replaced the bitterness. There reaches a point in every situation when there is nothing more you can do.I learned that we have a choice in every situation: peace or chaos.
First lets look at what prevents us from having a tranquil state of mind. And then explore how to bring more peace into our lives.
Habits that take peace away from your life:
Worrying is thinking about all the variables of what could happen that are out of our control. We worry about what people think, how things will work out, other people, what to say, how to not worry, money, relationships, work, death, life and so on. Those who find themselves worrying about everything begin to worry about worrying - this is the vicious cycle people with anxiety suffer from. Overthinking is a form of worry too - playing a scene over and over again in your head of how you want a situation to pan out. Worrying is trying to solve all your problems, alone in your head.
A carpenter was hired by an old lady to restore her farmhouse. The first day on the job his saw broke, he lost an hour of work getting a flat tire and his old pick-up wouldn't start when it was time to go home. While the lady drove him home he sat in cold silence.
When they arrived, he invited her inside to meet his family. Just before they walked in the carpenter put his hands up to the branches of a tree in the yard. He smiled and then walked into the house to his children hugging his legs and a kiss from his wife.
After meeting his family he walked the lady back to her car. When they passed the tree she asked what he did earlier to the branches.
“That's ol’ trouble tree,” he said. “work can throw a whole heap of problems your way, see? But I know that my problems don't belong in the house with my family.”
“Funny I reckon,” he said with a smirk, “when I come out at dawn I grab my worries off the tree on my way to work. There ain't nearly as many as I remember hanging up the night before.”
People-pleasing is seeking personal satisfaction by trying to make everyone else happy. It leaves you constantly worried about what everyone else is thinking. Turns out that it is impossible to make anyone else truly happy. Everybody is responsible for his or her own happiness. When you take responsibility for your own happiness and let others handle theirs, everyone ends up being happier. You cannot feel at peace with yourself when you’re constantly worried about everyone else.
Many times people-pleasing encourages people to take advantage of you. If you never say no, people will always turn to you for a favor. Over time it’s easy to feel abused and mistreated by the constant requests. Eventually it looks like everyone is taking advantage of you and the self-pity kicks in. The truth is that the people-pleaser puts himself/herself in that situation voluntarily. It’s not your job to solve everyone's issues all the time. What a relief to give up trying to run the universe of happiness all by yourself.
This nasty habit keeps your mind focused on the negative destroying the chance for peace. Complaining creates bogus excuses for why your life is unfulfilling or difficult. Getting stuck in this trap prevents you from surmounting challenges and keeps you in a miserable state. You can be part of the pollution or part of the solution. Complaining is always pollution. There is a choice to be made: blame others for your hardships and remain unhappy or take responsibility and find the solution.
If you are a complain-aholic, stopping abruptly can be harder than quitting a drug addiction. One thing to practice is to stop complaining out loud. The chatter begins in your mind, always looking at the negative side. When you see it crop up, practice not letting that toxic talk out of your mouth. Other complainers love complaining company. You don’t have to partake in those conversations anymore. It’s never too late to stop. Even if you catch yourself in the middle of a good roast, you can opt out of the conversation at any time.
Nothing degenerates your soul more than judging other people for their imperfections. The only reason we judge others is because it helps us feel better about ourselves. Inherently we don’t feel content if we need to bring others down. Judgement generates that evil voice in your head that is always noticing little faults. The fault-finder wears on the spirit like a bad cold that won’t kick. We end up being people we don’t want to be, saying things about others we shouldn’t. The judgement machine manufactures us unable to see the good in others.
We tend to see the faults in others that we don’t want to see in ourselves. There is an old saying, “you spot it you got it.” The truth is, if you hate something about someone else it is because you hate something similar about yourself.
I hated when my old boss would call me goofy names and crack fun at me in front of other people. I always felt disrespected and mistreated. Then one day it occurred to me that I do the same thing! At times I’ve found myself making someone else the center of attention by making a joke out of them. I always thought I was being funny, just like my boss probably did. Really, I was being an asshole.
When we learn to forgive other people for their shortcomings, we in return learn to forgive ourselves. The judgements can turn around and we end up beating ourselves up. We can be our own worst critic; never feeling like we are good enough for anyone or anything. Forgiveness equates to peace of mind.
How to invite tranquility into your life:
I sent an email to a potential client requesting my services for hire under his company. Compulsively I checked my inbox awaiting his reply. As the hours passed my confidence began to dwindle. I started thinking, “was it something I said? Crap, did I spell something wrong in the email and now he thinks I’m an idiot that's not worth a response? He probably found a better candidate than me.”
As time passed my thoughts increased in climatic intensity. Eventually I wondered what it is going to be like to be homeless. "What kind of shopping cart would I push? Should I sleep under a bridge or hitchhike somewhere warm to bum on the beach? Surely no one ever wants to contract a nit-wit who leaves spelling errors in an email." After a few days of going over all the possible reasons I didn’t get a response and the new direction of my life I forgot about it and moved on.
A few weeks later a message popped into my inbox from said client apologizing for the delay. My email had gotten overlooked and they would be happy to talk further details about my requests. I suppose I didn’t need to spend all that time planning out being homeless. As I’ve learned to trust that life isn't going to drop me on my head and leave me to rot, the unknown is not as frightful. I would bet the same goes for you.
Let it Happen
The secret to finding peace in life is giving up control of what you never had control of in the first place. You don’t have to sacrifice your hopes and dreams. All you are doing is giving up trying to control other people and the outcomes of everything. You can only be the best you and hope for the rest. Life will work out exactly as it should. It’s better if you are not in control anyway, because there is some master plan in the works and you will probably fuck it up.
That doesn’t mean that you don’t get a say in your life. If you don’t take interest in your life, no one will. Getting tied up in the outcome business is what leads to trouble. Setting expectations of how everyone else should behave is asking for disappointment. Letting things happen rather than forcing them to happen is generally the more effective route. You can’t always control what happen to you, but you can control how you respond to it. Life is much more enjoyable when you give up the job “Ruler of the Universe,” which you never had in the first place.
This may seem contrary to some of the other suggestions, but being selfless is the best way to heal a disturbed mind. Selflessness is not neglecting your own well-being, it’s being willing to set aside some of your desires in consideration of others. Constant self-centeredness only leaves you thinking about yourself all the time, creating worry. Getting out of yourself and doing something helpful for someone else gets you out of your restless mind. It was suggested to me that if I ever am sitting around feeling sorry for myself to get up and go do an anoynomous act of kindness; like shovel my neighbor's driveway in the night like Batman.
Being selfless is more than the occasional kind act. I don’t think you score extra-credit with God for doing someone a solid. It is a daily choice to live amongst everyone rather than trying to rise above. Living a life beyond strict self-fulfillment reveals that you are one small part of the whole and that everyone is equally important. Selfishness only produces loneliness. Selflessness generates a sense of belonging to the world and the worry melts away.
My good friend always says: “If you want to be happy for a minute, have a cigarette. If you want to be happy for a day, go see a good movie. If you want to be happy for a week, buy a car. If you want to be happy for a month, get married. If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, do something for somebody else.“
Beat the Beast
There is a beast in your mind. The beast needs to eat or it starves and can’t do its job. It’s favorite foods are complaints, judgements, worry and self-pity. The more the beast eats the stronger he becomes. His main purpose is to cause chaos and destruction. Peace becomes impossible when the beast is banging against the walls of your mind. When you try to fight back he always wins.
But when you quit feeding the beast, he becomes weaker. Most people never completely kill him, for he is very resilient. The less you give the beast the quieter he becomes. He will lay down and become lethargic. If you bring him a 4-course meal he gets right back to what he does best. But if you stop giving the bait you’ll hardly hear from him. When he lays down you will see that behind him, the entire time, was a peaceful mind.
The harder you reach for tranquility the more disturbed you become. Trying to force tranquility is like trying to stop the wind by putting your hands out. The only way to stop the wind is to realize you cannot. It’s much easier to put your hands down and let the wind stop on its owns. How we choose to exist within the disturbance will determine how tranquil we are. It is not your job to stop the winds of life from blowing, you are just learning to adjust the sail.